Funtastics Adventure Racing Team climbs Mt AdamsMatt Wilson, a friend of Lisa and Dave’s, and a member of the Spokane Mountaineering Club, put together the expedition, and so on Friday, after a couple of hours of delay involving organizing gear, picking up contacts, getting Morgen, getting lunch, etc, Lisa, Morgen, Rick, Matt and Dave set out for Mt. Adams, which at 12, 272 feet, is the second highest peak in the Cascades, just behind Rainier.
The weather was warm, or perhaps some would say hot, topping the thermometer at 106 degrees near the tri-cities, and would remain high throughout the weekend. We stopped for a Mexican dinner in White Salmon, near the banks of the Columbia, and then started heading uphill toward Trout Lake at the base of the mountain.
We stayed at the Trout Lake Hotel, a quaint, well done little place, that served wonderful, sweet potato waffles for breakfast the next morning, and then the adventure began!
Stop 1: The Ranger station, where we picked up our climbing passes, and got some last minute advice from Jean, the crusty ranger.
Stop 2: The South Climb parking area, Route 183! It’s about a 30 minute drive from town, on roads that got rougher and narrower as we went, but thankfully, it got a few degrees cooler, down to just over 100 by 9:30 am. We started the gear fiddle, making sure that everyone had everything they would need (more on how this isn’t a fool proof procedure later) and divvying up all the gear. Thankfully, Matt had a bunch of extra gear, including a couple of great packs for Dave and Lisa, tents etc.
I must digress slightly here to say that surprisingly, once you have your gear, it’s a relatively inexpensive hobby… we had dinner Friday and Sunday, split one hotel room five-ways, bought a $15 climbing pass, and that was it! Now, the gear can get pricey, but at least this trip, Matt was able to furnish us with the things we didn’t have.
At 10:00 am, we started up the hill. Let me put it in perspective: Saturday’s hike in to the high base camp (named the Lunch Counter, or the Lunch Box, according to Lisa) is only 5 miles… no biggie, right? So what… 5 miles? cake, I say… cake.
Let me tell ya… 5 miles uphill–and in some parts, REALLY uphill, in heat over 100 degrees is a challenge. Add in packs weighing upto Dave’s idiotic 70-odd pounds, and thus, the title of this post: In typically understated British fashion, there were times when it was all I had to set a goal 50 yards up the trail, and put one foot in front of the other until I got there, take a breath or two, and repeat. How hard was it? It took us 5 hours to make the hike, with only one real fifteen minute rest break, and we were moving! After the last 3/4 mile trek through the snow field, Dave was close to done/spent, though everyone else seemed good to go. Thankfully, my recovery was pretty quick, and I was no worse for wear after 15 minutes or so.
Stop 3: Base Camp!
We set up camp and spent the remainder of the daylight getting water, cooking our surprisingly good dehydrated dinners, drinking a little wine and taking pictures of the amazing sunset. Sadly, there was a bit too much haze from the forest fires in the area, so pictures of the other peaks (Hood, St. Helens, Rainier, Baker) were only so so.
This was Matt’s fifth time up Adams, so he was a veritable font of knowledge, and was very safety conscious. Dave had had a little climbing experience back in college, and Morgen and Rick had done some hiking/climbing, but we were basically novices, so Matt’s leadership was greatly appreciated. Learning the ins and outs of cooking on the mountain, using “Blue Bags,” filtering your water etc. were good refreshers for those who had done them before, and real eyeopeners for those who hadn’t!
Mt. Adams is notoriously windy and cold, but we lucked out with high temps, and essentially no wind on Saturday, and as we went to bed, the full moon was coming up–to quote Matt, it was an epic evening!
Rain had been predicted for Sunday, and the wind picked up slightly just after midnight, and for those of you not used to sleeping in a tent on the rocks, it takes some getting used to. The first rain drops hit at 3:30 am, but aside from waking us, they held off, thankfully.
3:30. Did I mention 3:30? That’s am, BTW… Well, Matt decided that since we were awake, and the moon was up and bright, we might as well get going, so hot chocolate, oatmeal and bagels were downed, packs were lightened to a minimum, and just after 5:00 am, we headed toward the summit, some 3000 feet and 2 miles up.
Within 30 minutes, the sun was coming up, and we reached the base of the glacier just in time to watch a glorious mountain sunrise. We put on crampons, pulled out our ice axes, and started up the snow field.
It took us about 60 minutes to clear the glacier, where we took off our spikes and made our way up the scree slope to the false summit, named Piker’s Peak, which is at slightly over 11,000 feet. This is where we met the famous Mt. Adams wind, in the shape of a 35 mph “breeze.” After the plateau, you get your first view of the summit, still 1000 feet or so above you, and at this time of year, the final pitch was more rock than snow, though you have to actually descend about 1/4 mile down and across another glacier to reach the final headwall.
Stop 4: 3 hours after we left camp, we reached the summit, and found out that the wind on Piker’s Peak was only a breeze. Now, it howled up the hill at about 50 mph, and made the handstand photos a challenge to balance.
After walking around the summit and taking some of the attached photos, we started our descent. After traversing the glacier, we reached the main snowfield, and got to glissade down, which basically means sliding down a steep snow field on your rear end, trying not break your legs or other body parts. In all, it was a blast!
We broke camp, dividing up the load a bit more evenly, and started our hike out, which, let me tell you, is WAY faster going down hill than up! When we left our camp on the mountain, it was about 58 degrees, and by the time we reached the base, it was back over 100. Quite a change!
We stopped for much appreciated burgers and chocolate milk, and then made the drove back, arriving back in CDA by 10:45 p.m.
Overall, it was a great weekend, and we learned a TON! We hope to join the Mountaineers ourselves and take several of the classes, so that we can attack Rainier and some of the other peaks next season. It is an addictive hobby, as there is something really special about reaching the top, with the great efforts required. It was also a heckuva workout!
Original trip report with photos